I recently saw this email about the end of AOL Instant Messenger, or more commonly known as AIM. Oh the memories of AIM during those nights I was supposed to be studying but chatting with friends instead. I still remember that familiar tone with messages came in.
It’s incredible to think about how much technology has changed the way we communicate with each other. Emails, text messaging, instant messaging, iChat, video conferences, Facebook, Twitter, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Instagram, Snapchat, Zoom, and more. I wonder what’s next to say goodbye as new forms of technology and platforms surface.
Thank you AIM. Thank you for all the memories and connections. You will be missed.
One of the many things that anyone in education encounters on a daily/monthly/yearly basis is continued professional development. I have had the pleasure and privilege of being involved in numerous professional learning opportunities - both as a participant and as a presenter. It is incredible the number of professional learning workshops, seminars, and programs are available to teachers everywhere.
The keys to professional learning are always time and self initiation. Initiating the professional learning and investing time are always the first step. One professional learning experience I recently initiated for myself was completing the Apple Teacher Learning Center modules. It was great to be able to learn and relearn things about the Mac, iPad, Keynote, Numbers, Pages, GarageBand, and more. I feel super fortunate to have worked at The Apple Store at both the Stanford Shopping Center and the Palo Alto stores as a Specialist, Theater Manager, and Creative. I learned an incredible amount of information on Apple products, Mac OS, iPods, iPads, iOS, iLife, iWork, Final Cut, iBooks, and more. That experience really helped me go through the Apple Teacher modules with great ease. The content in the modules also really helped me learn new options, structures, and ideas. I highly encourage every teacher to initiate the Apple Teacher modules.
My next self-initiated professional learning will be the Google Certifications.
I have always said my kind of R&R is Reflection & Refinement. I reflect on my work, thoughts, actions, and emotions everyday and constantly look for ways to improve and refine what I do, how I think, who I am.
As an instructional coach, feedback has been tremendous in promoting me to reflect and refine what I do. It's part of every interaction I have with the teachers I partner with, the students I have the pleasure of engaging with, my colleagues that I collaborate with, and my supervisors that push me and guide me.
During my first year as Math and STEAM Coach, in 2015-2016, I created a Google Form that I shared with the teachers I partnered with asking for feedback. It was definitely a way for me to gain insight into their perspective, my performance, and ways I can continue to improve. As the year progressed and definitely into my second year as a coach, I shortened the Google Form URL by using bit.ly and also added the link to my email signature (bit.ly/feedback4joe). I believe giving the opportunity for anyone to provide feedback at all times helps me continue to gain that insight. I didn't want to just share the link to selected individuals. Having the link on my email signature allows anyone I have any level of email contact with to be able to give me feedback. And as Alana Stanton and I have always tweeted, everything is feedback (link to my graphic - Failure is Feedback).
With the continued desire to receive feedback, reflect, and refine, this week I created another method for people to provide me feedback. #FlipgridFever is definitely contagious and educators all over the world have used the platform to enhance student engagement and amplify student voice. (This summer I used it with adult learners too in a professional development setting.) This week I created a grid to receive feedback. Using Flipgrid will bring a greater degree of voice, emotion, and tone to the feedback that I receive than the responses on a Google Form. I can't wait to see the video feedback I receive on the grid (https://flipgrid.com/feedback4joe). Even if I don't receive any video responses (maybe because of comfort levels with video recordings), providing this additional method of feedback will meet my continued goal of constant R&R.
Meaningful, manageable, authentic audience, student voice, Mindfulness, and empowerment. Those are words that stand out from my experience at today's MDUSD's 2nd Annual STEM & EdTech Symposium (another info link from East Bay CUE). What an incredible day of professional learning, making professional connections, learning together, and finding ways to impact, inspire, and empower students.
The day started with an inspiring keynote by Nicholas Zefeldt. How can we make our students' experience meaningful and manageable for us? Nick inspired the crowd of over 400 educators with many concepts, including two key points - providing our students with authentic audiences and the value of student voice. Whether through blogs, podcasts, Twitter, students' work from Writer's Workshop, when we give our students an authentic audience it changes how they see themselves as writers. Students will then be more empowered and willing to share their voice. Focus on listening to our students. Focus on student voice. Nick took the crowd through a segment about podcasting and shared a wonderful web based resource that's simple to use - http://vocaroo.com. It was super cool the way Nick creating an interactive part of his keynote by creating a podcast with the 400 educators in the room, giving tips on how to create podcasts with students, teaching students to say, "Whoops, what I meant to say was ...," and singing a childhood favorite song. Check out Nick's tweet below, especially the link to the podcast!
Nick also shared several pro tips, including offering extra recess as a purposeful teacher move and using QR codes to connect physical elements to the internet. His keynote was indeed an amazing way to kick off the day! Nick pointed out the necessary step of asking yourself two questions - Is what you're about to do with your students meaningful? Is it manageable?
Is it meaningful? Does it change the learning opportunity in some way? Saying it's engaging isn't enough.
Is it manageable? You do something amazing. Three days (weeks, months) later can you do it again with ease? Do you want to do it again?
STEM & EdTech Symposium Sessions
The sessions I went to focused on ways to incorporate EdTech tools in the classroom for student discovery and empowerment. Breakout EDU is always a topic that draws curiosity and interest and the sessions during the symposium today were full, engaging, and fun. A session I had the pleasure of going to was one offered by Roni Habib focused on Mindfulness, positivity, and relationships. Participants in his session learned about the impact of games in the classroom. When teachers incorporate collaborative games in the classroom it promotes positivity which in turn fosters an environment where learning thrives. Roni referenced the work of a psychologist whose study showed that positivity leads to a greater ability to learn. It was great to hear Roni share some of the practical things we can do in the classroom. The following is just a part of the list.
A huge highlight for me at today's MDUSD's 2nd Annual STEM & EdTech Symposium was partnering with THE Karly Moura for a session on Virtual field trips with Google Expeditions. I have had the pleasure of partnering with Karly on many projects and initiatives, include #TOSAchat, #GAFEhelp - now known as #gsuiteEDU, and various edcamp planning. Today Karly and I facilitated a session on the use of Google Expeditions for a room full of educators. It was great to begin with a discussion of what VR is and what participants thought of virtual reality in the classroom. There were thoughts of positive use and aspects of VR in the classroom, such as access for students, being cost-effective (after the initial cost of the equipment), and creating global connections. It was also good to hear the devil's advocate and cautious point of view of VR too. Is it just a gimmick? A participant said since 3D in television hasn't taken off even though it was projected to, is VR also something that's getting premature attention? The discussion was definitely a great way to set the tone for the session - emphasizing and referencing one point from Nick's keynote in the morning - it's not about the tools, it's about the teacher. It's the verbs we want our students to engage in. Empowerment. Creativity. Access.
It was definitely a fun, hands-on session with devices from the Tesoro's MDUSD STEM Lending Library. Karly and I took participants through three virtual Google Expeditions field trips connected to three curricular areas - Social Studies with Pearl Harbor, Literacy with Roald Dahl's estate and stories, and Science with the human body. All three field trips were definitely very engaging with the images, notes from the guides, and interactivity with the iPads and headsets. Special thanks to the Golden State Warriors and Accenture for supporting our session with the donation of the virtual reality headsets!
The session ended with a review of the value of the verbs and concepts such as access, empowerment, and connections, rather than focusing on the tools. I'm always reminded of the image below.
Let's all remember to make our learning and teaching meaningful, manageable, impactful, and inspirational for our students. I will end this blog post with the video Nick shared at the end of his keynote. The video will definitely speak for itself.
Update as of Tuesday, February 28th: Since the STEM & EdTech Symposium, Karly and I have gotten great feedback about our Google Expeditions session and experiences with students.
"You need a robot to tell you to stand up."
This was a comment directed to me a few days ago when I stood up at a meeting after I received a notification to stand on my Apple Watch. Of course it's hard to tell tone in the text of this blog post (although I'm guessing you may know waht it was). The tone was definitely sarcastic and somewhat demeaning.
I understand that technology often plays such a large role in our lives that it may seem like technology runs our lives. How many of us have felt that phantom buzz in our pockets from what we thought was our phone buzzing, or now on our wrists with smartwatches. Technology is in our cars, in our homes, at work, and in our pockets. At times it feels like we can't escape it. I'm guessing that's where that comment came from - an effort to not let technology run our lives.
As much as I understand and align with that perspective and effort, and believe that there was no ill will from the person who said it, I also see the benefits of technology on our lives - our healthy lives. First, we rely on technology to help us wake up. There really isn't anything wrong with setting an alarm so we can get up in time for work, for important meetings, or even just to not miss out on the possibilities of the day. We rely on technology to help us get around. I'm sure there are still times when people pull out a paper map to find their way around (maybe at theme parks) but most directions and methods of getting around now involve technology - Waze, Google Maps, ... (Many theme parks now have mobile apps to help you get around too.) Another example of how technology benefits our lives is through communication. This is done through email, phone calls, Twitter, Voxer, and so many more platforms for communicating ideas and learning from other people's words and perspectives. Although I am not active on Facebook anymore, many people often speak about how Facebook helps them stay in touch with friends from years ago and in different countries and continents. Technology benefits our lives.
So, do I rely on technology, namely my Apple Watch, to tell me to stand up? Yes. Why shouldn't I? I appreciate the notifications to stand up. I appreciate being able to look down and see my progress on the activity rings. I appreciate the notifications to breathe - to pause and focus on being mindful. I appreciate being able to see how many steps I've taken on my Fitbit One (yes, I use both an Apple Watch and a Fitbit tracker - my Fitbit One is the basic model that serves its purpose). I appreciate the social aspect of technology to help promote healthy living.
I've used the Fitbit platform since February of 2014 and the social aspect of the platform has really helped motivate me to stay active, to get my steps in, to live a healthy lifestyle. The challenges with others have really helped me and I know it's helped others who are in those challenges too. Maybe it's the competition, the cheers, the comparisons, the analytics, ... that help the challenges. No matter what the reason is, it's helped me maintain my focus on activity and healthy living.
Recently, another educator, Mark Loundy, shared with me a benefit of the Fitbit challenges for him. Mark sent me a screenshot of one of data collection options in the Fitbit platform. He said that ever since I connected with him on Fitbit and initiated the challenges, he's seen his body weight go down. It's really incredible to see his excitement and sense of accomplishment. What an incredible example of using technology for healthy living.
So, do I rely on technology to tell me to stand up, to move, ...? Yes, I choose to - because I see the benefits of it.
Recently two teachers who I've had the pleasure of working with for many years told me they've been asked to submit proposals for sessions at a professional development conference in the summer. They asked me what topics I thought they could write for their session proposals. Having had the pleasure and opportunities of working with them as colleagues, supporting them in my role as an instructional coach, and knowing them as friends, I felt honored they asked me for my opinion/suggestion/idea. It was definitely easy for me to point out the amazing things they've been doing in their classrooms that I am confident others would love to hear and learn from their experience and expertise. We were able to identify lessons, units, projects, and philosophies like coding and robotics, fostering a culture of student voice and student choice - giving students digital options to showcase their learning, MysterySkype and MysteryHangout, BreakoutEDU, and integrated units. An example of the amazing integrated units they've designed for their students was creating a life size teepee during their study of Native Americans in their Social Studies block, measurement and data in their Math Workshop, and nonfiction study in their Readers and Writers Workshops.
During our conversation and brainstorm session of what topics they could write for their session proposals, I got the sense they both felt a lack of confidence in the ideas. "Is this something (the topic) others will like?" "Will other teachers actually get anything out of this?" Those were exactly some of the things I thought myself when I submitted my session proposals. After offering affirmations and sharing my confidence that their session ideas are definitely topics that others WILL benefit from, I offered a different perspective.
1 Comfort and 1 Push
In my experience of brainstorming topics for PD conferences, I often second guess my ideas because I feel comfortable with those topics as a result of having done those lessons/units/projects/had those philosophies for a long time that I feel they are "old news." "Why would anyone go to that session? Hasn't everyone done that already?" And I always find the reality is the topics are worthwhile, are beneficial, are new to others, even though I've been practicing them for some time. Knowing their ideas would be beneficial to others AND knowing how they may be feeling, I suggested to submit 1 Comfort and 1 Push. Submit a session topic that you're comfortable with, confident in, and KNOW it will be helpful to others no matter how you may feel about it. And submit 1 topic that's a Push for you. A topic that you've been wanting to explore, to learn, and to implement - the Push. We all have those Push ideas and sometimes we don't push ourselves to try them because of the tasks on our plates, a lack of time, and many other reasons. Suggesting they identify a Push idea for them to submit creates that importance of time and investment into learning the topic so they can present it at the conference. A goal with a due date is set. Learning that Push idea becomes a priority.
Of course I am not suggesting this to be the way to push yourself to learn something new, to take on your Push ideas. It's just a suggestion I shared with those two teachers in our conversation that, given the circumstances, may help them to identify those Push topics they've been wanting to try.
However, the notion is still there (which is why I'm writing this blog post). What are your Push topics? What are the things you've been wanting to learn that you may not have had the time for? Identify those Push ideas and set a goal to learn them - maybe to share that idea at a conference like in the conversation I had with my colleagues. Identify those Push ideas.
I have definitely always loved the power of videography to tell a story. From movies like The Matrix, Star Wars, and Inception; TV shows like 24, Designated Survivor, and The Black List; and family films, videos have a wonderful way to express feelings, grab your attention, take you on an emotional rollercoaster, and more.
The following are two short video projects that I either made or had a part in making. The first is a project with fellow teachers in the Palo Alto Unified School District where we experimented with the technique of creating a basketball trick shot. We used the guide from Klutz's Tricky Video book to shoot and edit the following video.
Two years ago, I had the pleasure of spending Christmas at Disneyland and California Adventure and created the following video all on my iPhone 6 and iMovie on my phone. It was fun to manipulate the speed of some clips.
I am constantly working on improving my videography skills. Are there books, resources you would recommend for me to check out as I continue to learn more?
I absolutely have relied on Google Docs for most of my collaborative efforts. Pages on my Mac is definitely a great application for documents, newsletters, and page layout projects, but Google Docs has made collaborating with others super easy. The great feature that Google Docs and the may Google Apps have over other products is the Share button. The ability to share a document, give access to view or edit, and have expiring sharing privileges are great features!
There are many ways to use Google Docs and its sharing settings for collaborative work. Below are just a few of the ways I've used it.
Shared notes at a conference.
Drafting a document with others.
Asking for comments, suggestions, ...
Publishing content to the web and embedding it on webpages like tosachat.org.
I recently came across this website of tips and lessons on using Google Apps. A lot of the information is basic to me now (thankfully), but definitely still useful.
Here's a question I still have though - about tables in Google Docs. Is there a setting or way to make table cells that reach the bottom of the page not spill the text onto the next page? I want the cell to automagically start on the next page instead.
Do you use Google Apps for Education (GAFE)? Are you a connected educator on Twitter? (And if you are not, then why not? But that is another conversation to have later.) Have you ever had a question about GAFE and so you Tweet it out only for it to get lost in the abyss of Twitter and never get a response? Or if you do get a response, it is completely random and really doesn’t help?
Well, we hope this will be a solution to that dilemma. We would like to introduce to you a new Twitter account, @GAFEhelp.
Eight GAFE using educators connected on Twitter and have teamed up to manage this new handle. Our goal is to be a resource to other GAFE using teachers and help provide a quick answer to any type of GAFE related question you may need help with.
In addition to this new Twitter account, we will be using the hashtag #GAFEhelp to also facilitate communication of any questions that may be out there.
We don’t see ourselves as experts, but just a group knowledgeable teachers wanting to help provide answers to your questions. If we don’t know an answer, we will try to help you research a solution and provide resources to help you get going in the right direction.
So if you need help with Google Apps, just tweet us @GAFEhelp and/or use the hashtag #GAFEhelp. So, How may we GAFEhelp you?
Meet the GAFEhelp Team:
Technology has really changed the world. Here's a simple story of the impact of technology. This story happened recently with a student I was speaking to.
"What's this word mean?" - a child.
"Well, here's a dictionary for you to look it up." - Mr. Young
"Oh come on, why can't I just ask Siri?"
On one hand, technology has given people easier access to information. People can pull up information from around the world, instantaneously. On the other hand, has technology had a negative impact on people's (traditional) research skills. Has it influenced a person's inability to exercise patience, persistence, and delay gratification?
What do you think?
Recently I was asked my colleague about how to disable YouTube from showing the related videos at the end of the video. She was using some videos embedded in her Schoology course for her students and wanted to keep the students focused on their work. I was able to find a video tutorial I made in November of 2015 that I was able to share with her. After sending the video, I thought of sharing it on my blog as well. However, instead of putting it on my main blog page, I decided to create the new "Tech Tips" blog page.
Everyone should know how to program a computer, because it teaches you to think! - Steve Jobs
I had the pleasure of partnering with the first grade classes at Escondido Elementary School in PAUSD on learning coding and computer science. It was fun to begin the time together talking about how the first graders have interacted with technology and computer science before. They shared many wonderful ideas including playing video games, watching Netflix, playing Minecraft, using the microwave, using the SmartBoard in the classroom, using the telephone, and also as simply as turning on the lights. As we continued, our time together, I shared a process of determining the "codes" the students need to use to navigate the "fuzzball" to get the prize. It was definitely an engageing intro activity as the first graders used the directions of up, down, left, and right to program the path of the fuzzball. Starting with a whole-class activity on the easel pad helped established a shared learning experience before the students worked in partners to solve the coding puzzles on the iPad app - Kodable.
It was definitely a great time working with the first graders on the introduction to coding and computer science, the essential lifeskill of trying again when mistakes are made, the process of analyzing mistakes in code, and working with another to solve puzzles.
In this digital age, it's important to be mindful of our online posts, pictures, blog posts, and social media interactions and what kind of digital footprint we're leaving.
A fifth grade class at El Carmelo Elementary School in PAUSD had the following footprints taped in the classroom after a series of lessons and discussions of the impact of our digital footprint with their teacher, Jeanne-Marie Atieh. This is definitely an important concept for everyone, and it's great to start learning about our digital footprint at an early age.
I have had such a pleasure partnering with so many professionals through the Palo Alto Unified School District and districts all around the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. In this first year as a Math & STEAM Coach / TOSA (teacher on special assignment, it's been extra special because I have the opportunity to go into many more teachers' classrooms, partner with them, collaborate on lessons and projects, and learn and grow together. Two educators I've had the incredible pleasure of partnering with are Kristi Van and Valerie Sabbag, both from Fairmeadow Elementary School in the Palo Alto Unified School District.
This week, the first week back from winter break, has been an incredible experience with STEAM and robotics. On Tuesday, January 5th, I had the pleasure of partnering with Kristi Van, a third grade teacher at Fairmeadow Elementary School as her students had a free exploration of Spheros. The students had a wonderful time with the Spheros and they quickly caught onto the user interface of the iPad app to control their Spheros. Blog post about this experience.
The fun with the Spheros continued it the afternoon with Valerie Sabbag's fifth grade class. I had the chance to touch base with Valerie during lunch about her plans for her students with the Spheros. She told me they've explored maneuvering the Spheros the day before and she developed a few courses for her students to take their Spheros on. These 4 to 5 courses became the students' "Driver's Ed" class as well. An example of one of the courses was to drive the Sphero down a straight line of blue tape, stop on an "x," and then drive it back to where it started. Another course involved maneuvering the Sphero around the classroom and under stools without hitting the legs of the stools (if you did, you had to start over). One other course was to circle around the three round picnic tables outside the classroom without bumping into the legs.
It was super fun to see the students' excitement after they passed their "driving test" and I asked them for their names to print on their Sphero Driver's License. As I printed the students' licenses on card stock and cut each one out, Valerie Sabbag gave her students the opportunity to design obstacle courses with any material in the classroom. The students definitely showed a lot of creativity as they used math manipulatives, pencil boxes, white boards, stools and benches, and supplies from their science explorations to construct their obstacle courses. Not only was this activity fun, hands-on, and creative, the students exercised a lot of academic skills and lifeskills. Valerie and I were able to hear the students talk about the angle their Sphero had to rotate to make a particular turn. Students calculated the distances of their obstacle courses. Students worked collaboratively, communicated their ideas, and showed flexibility as they revised their obstacle courses after some test runs.
Here are two more videos of some of the creative obstacle courses Valerie Sabbag's fifth grader made. The one on the right is definitely an example of how the students persevered to achieve their goal of dropping their Sphero into the tub of water.
As you can see in that last video, the students landed their Sphero in the tub of water. It was super fun. A fun connection was Valerie's comment, "This is how we use textbooks" which was a reference to Matt Miller's book, Ditch That Textbook. Of course I had to tweet it to Matt right away.
As you can see, it was such an incredible time for those fifth graders. I feel so honored to have the chance to partner with such amazing professionals. I can't believe that I get to have these experiences of being able to support Valerie Sabbag with the Spheros, STEM, and robotics! This week, the first week back from winter break, has indeed been an incredible experience.
Word Cloud of student responses to using the Spheros.
Click "Read More" to view one last video of fifth grade students in Valerie Sabbag's class explore making their Sphero jump, dance, ... in the tub of water.
What an amazing way to start 2016! Today, the third graders in Kristi Van's class at Fairmeadow Elementary School in PAUSD had the pleasure of exploring Spheros. It was a fantastic experience where groups of students shared the iPads, explored the user interface of the Sphero app, and had a free exploration time with those fun robots. The third graders were very quick with finding and trying the different controls on the app. The students loved being able to change the speed of their Spheros, adjust the color, make their Sphero into a disco ball, and make their robot jump.
It has been such a great few weeks leading up to this week of Computer Science Education Week and the #HourOfCode. Teachers and students throughout #PAUSD were getting excited about spending an hour engaged in computer science, computer programming, and coding. I had the pleasure of helping a few teachers get set up on code.org, work with their students in going the lessons and modules on code.org and Khan Academy, and had the pleasure of capturing some of the excitement.
Below is a video I put together on my phone of Kindergarten, third grade, and fourth grade students at Fairmeadow. It was such a pleasure of me to share the #HourOfCode with those students and teachers, and to capture their experience for them.
Another amazing evening of gathering with our TOSAs (Teacher on Special Assignment) to discuss relationships on #TOSAchat. Kelly Martin (@kmartintahoe) moderated this important chat discussing the importance of building relationships in our work as TOSAs, ways to support educators who are already on board and those who are hesitant or reluctant, and ways to keep teachers on track of their goals and objectives. It was another very powerful time of engaging in academic discourse with the #TOSAchat community. Here are some examples of the valuable insights that came from that evening's chat.
For the complete Storify, follow this link.
What an incredible success! Last night was the first #TOSAchat on Twitter and there was such an amazing turn out with over 1,000 tweets during that hour for TOSAs (teacher on special assignment).
#TOSAchat all began as an idea from Ben sometime in late June/early July this past summer. Ben reached out to Karly, Kelly, and me about starting this chat. We definitely jumped on board and things quickly materialized. We messaged each other within Twitter, starting out as tweets and then into a thread of a group direct messaging. Within the first few days we had discussed what we needed to get started and we had a lot set up already. We started a gmail account and registered the Twitter profile @tosachat. With the Google account, we create sheets of possible questions, a form for participants to fill out with suggestions for topics (Karly's foresight in making the chat interactive beyond the tweets), and had a place for the amazing graphics for @tosachat's profile and advertisement banners (from Kelly's creative mind). It was an incredible example of "teamwork that makes the dream work," as Ben often says.
One thing I really appreciated was that we picked what seemed like a late start date for the chat at that time but it turned out to be perfect for several reasons.
Teamwork definitely makes the dream work.
Please join us for #TOSAchat on Monday at 8:00 PST for incredible discourse with a fantastic community of educators. Here's the Storify for our inaugural chat in case you missed it.
Math & STEAM Coach / TOSA in Palo Alto Unified School District.